David Leibovitz is basically the culinary version of David Sedaris. He’s an ice-cream maker, chocolatier (he went to chocolate school for God’s sake!) and a wiz in his tiny little Parisian apartment kitchen. He’s also got a stellar sense of humor – one that is quite arguably reminiscent of the humor found in Sedaris’ writing. Thank goodness I read his culinary memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, because not only is this ex-pat turned Parisian pastry chef witty and a genius with desserts, he is also friends with director Nancy Meyers – who just so happens to have the recipe for the most exquisite hot fudge I’ve ever tasted.
After some recent hot fudge making (and subsequently one hot fudge sundae later),I was taken back to my childhood. I have fond memories of frequent ventures to United Dairy Farmers with my grandfather whenever I would travel to Ohio to visit family. UDF is an original Ohio ice cream chain, often housed in convenience stores, but don’t let that deceive you. They’ve been in business since 1939 and deliver the best homemade ice cream and some of the best hot fudge out there.
I remember alternating between the handspun strawberry milkshake and the classic hot fudge sundae (hold the nuts) – I like them but not on my sundaes. To me, the key to the perfect hot fudge sundae is already in its name – it’s all about the hot fudge. Sure, homemade ice cream and whipped cream are necessary, but the hot fudge is the crucial component of the whole sundae. I like for the chocolate flavor to shine through the hot fudge and for it to be as thick and velvety as possible, draped over a couple generous mounds of ice cream and a cloud of real whipped cream and a nice old fake maraschino cherry to seal the deal. Nancy Meyer’s hot fudge is just that. Somewhere in between the rich, silky flavor of a ganache and the texture and thickness of hot fudge lies this sauce.
As a child, I also remember making trips to Cream and Bean, a downtown Raleigh ice cream shop, right across from North Carolina State University. Originally it was Doug’s and then Steve’s, then Cream and Bean, but the name was the only thing that changed. It was the real deal – homemade everything. Situated in a popular little college town joint with hand painted chairs and tables, an antique ice cream maker and an old piano with worn ivory keys for any customer to entertain. I remember stealing tastes of my dad’s favorite treat – a hot fudge sundae with coffee ice cream and hot fudge so deliriously good, you could actually taste the sugar granules in it. I suppose as a child it is odd to take a liking to coffee flavor, but I did and I also fell in love with their sundae, so my dad’s favorite treat also became my favorite treat. This sundae was a constant staple for me until Cream and Bean closed down about ten years ago, much to our dismay. Every time I visit home and drive by this former ice cream shop now turned scooter shop, my heart sinks a little over the fact that the former destination of the best sundae I’ve ever had now sells scooters instead of homemade ice cream. Still, my sundae eating memories are fond and I’ve even found a way to revive this sweet nostalgia.
Awhile back, I tackled Nancy Meyer’s surprisingly simple recipe for hot fudge and was shocked to find that something so simple to make could taste so perfect and remind me of both UDF and Cream and Bean, making me feel somewhere between four and twelve again. There’s a reason these sundaes are still ingrained in my memory. You can add a Tablespoon of espresso powder to this fudge, for a little glam and a nice hint of coffee or you could probably add a Tablespoon of bourbon to kick it up a notch. Personally, I wouldn’t try and alter such perfection. There isn’t much to it but its simplicity is part of what makes it so magical. It’s lovely just the way it is. Draped over some homemade coffee or vanilla ice cream, used to top profiteroles or éclairs, or licked right off the spoon.
Nancy Meyer’s Hot Fudge
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup of firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Ghiradelli)
- 1/3 cup of heavy cream
- pinch of salt
*optional: you could also try adding some espresso powder (dissolved in hot water) or add a little bourbon or vanilla*
-Put all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir over low heat until butter has melted. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly (about 5 minutes or so), until all of the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is smooth.